Commentary Archive

2014-2015 ITH season preview: Nebraska Cornhuskers

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With the start of college basketball season on the horizon, we’ll be taking a long look at the conference at large as well as Indiana’s roster over the next month. Today, we continue our look at the Big Ten with the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

There was no team in the Big Ten last season that surprised more than Nebraska. In year two under the energetic Tim Miles, the Cornhuskers saw the emergence of several stars, the opening of their new arena and an NCAA tournament appearance, all after a 5-13 Big Ten mark just one season prior.

Under Miles, the 2013-14 Big Ten Coach of the Year, the Cornhuskers have taken off as one of the hottest programs in the Big Ten. Last season, the team only lost once in the new Pinnacle Bank Arena — beating the likes of Indiana, Ohio State and Wisconsin at home — and pulled off a significant road win at Michigan State, one that clinched the program’s first NCAA tournament berth since 1998.

Nebraska also saw the emergence of former Texas Tech transfer Terran Petteway, who was playing his first season in Lincoln. Petteway went on to average 18.1 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, earning first team all-Big Ten honors. Petteway used 31.7 of Nebraska’s possessions as a sophomore, the highest of any Big Ten player last season.

Other standouts from last season’s team, guard Shavon Shields, forward Walter Pitchford, guard Tai Webster, forward David Rivers and guard Benny Parker, are all back, as well. Shields is one of the Big Ten’s best in terms of getting to the foul line (60.5 free throw rate) and Pitchford was the least mistake prone player in the conference last season with a turnover percentage of just 6.8.

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2014-2015 ITH season preview: Ohio State Buckeyes

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With the start of college basketball season on the horizon, we’ll be taking a long look at the conference at large as well as Indiana’s roster over the next month. Today, we continue our look at the Big Ten with the Ohio State Buckeyes.

The Aaron Craft era in Columbus is over and his departure, along with the loss of Lenzelle Smith Jr. and LaQuinton Ross, means there is plenty of production that Thad Matta must replace to keep the Buckeyes in thick of the Big Ten race.

The Craft and Smith departures (both graduated) were much easier to plan for than the loss of Ross, who made the head-scratching decision to declare for the NBA draft and is now in Italy. The production vacated by the trio is substantial: 36 points, 14.6 rebounds and seven assists per game.

So who is ready to step up and fill the void? Matta returns three seniors with starting experience in Sam Thompson, Shannon Scott and Amir Williams.

Scott, a former McDonald’s All-American, may be the Big Ten’s best returning perimeter defender (4.6 steal percentage), but is offensively challenged. He hit just 30.2 percent of his 3s as a junior and is turnover prone (22.2 TO%). Thompson is the team’s leading returning scorer and despite being one of the league’s best finishers, he hit just 49.7 percent of his 2s as a junior. And Williams, another former McDonald’s All-American, has been a disappointment so far in Columbus. As a junior, Williams averaged 7.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game, but only averaged 23.1 minutes per game.

Beyond those three returnees, Matta has some other pieces to work with including sophomore Marc Loving, senior big man Trey McDonald and redshirt freshman Kameron Williams, a combo guard. Loving will need to shoot it better to see the floor regularly (25.9 percent on 3s as a freshman) and Williams is likely to earn a role as a backup guard in the rotation.

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2014-2015 ITH season preview: Michigan State Spartans

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With the start of college basketball season on the horizon, we’ll be taking a long look at the conference at large as well as Indiana’s roster over the next month. Today, we continue our look at the Big Ten with the Michigan State Spartans.

Michigan State started the 2013-2014 season as the favorite to win the national championship. Tom Izzo, no stranger to building Final Four teams, constructed a roster that had talented veterans (Adreian Payne, Keith Appling and Branden Dawson) to go along with a young superstar (Gary Harris).

And while the Spartans ultimately fell short of their goal, Izzo and his company still enjoyed plenty of success including a trip to the Elite Eight and the Big Ten conference tournament title.

This year’s version of the Spartans will certainly look different than the group we last saw in Madison Square Garden in March. Payne and Harris are now in the NBA after being taken in the first round of the draft in June. Appling will be in training camp with the Los Angeles Lakers. Three other players, Kenny Kaminski (dismissed), Alex Gauna (opted not to return) and Russell Byrd (transferred) are gone.

But as we’ve learned in the past, despite the uncertainty, it’s never smart to count Michigan State out of the Big Ten race.

The prized returnee for Izzo is Dawson, a former McDonald’s All-American who is entering his final season of eligibility. The 6-foot-6 senior is one of the Big Ten’s best rebounders and defenders, but needs to show off a more polished offensive game as three of the team’s four leading scorers are gone. Dawson is very efficient (61.5 percent on 2s), but will need to morph into a guy who is capable of hitting midrange shots with consistency.

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2014-2015 ITH season preview: Illinois Fighting Illini

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With the start of college basketball season on the horizon, we’ll be taking a long look at the conference at large as well as Indiana’s roster over the next month. Today, we continue our look at the Big Ten with the Illinois Fighting Illini.

As John Groce enters year three in Champaign, an intriguing mix of talent allows for some cautious optimism about a return trip to the Big Dance.

After losing seniors Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson off his first-year squad that advanced to the round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament, the Illini suffered through an eight-game losing streak during conference play last season. But it rebounded to finish out the season a respectable 6-6 — a record that included an opening round victory against Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament and one against Boston University in the NIT.

And while the team took a hit earlier this month when senior point guard Tracey Abrams suffered a season-ending injury (torn right ACL), there are a pair of transfers available to pick up the slack.

With Abrams out at point, Oregon transfer Ahmad Starks — who averaged 10.4 points per game in 2012-2013 — could step up and take the starter’s role. Aaron Cosby, a transfer from Seton Hall, will also be eligible to play this season and has the ability to give minutes at the point guard position as well.

The duo will be joined in the backcourt by Simeon product Kendrick Nunn. Nunn emerged towards the end of his freshman campaign, as Groce gave him more minutes during the team’s final 12 games. Nunn finished the year as the team’s second-most efficient scorer (54.1 eFG) and scored in double-digits seven of the team’s last 12 games after failing to do so once before the final stretch.

Wing Rayvonte Rice, who sat out Groce’s first year as a Drake transfer, was the team’s top scorer as a redshirt junior a season ago (15.9 points) and also led the team in minutes played (32.7). Rice could stand some shooting and efficiency improvement (48.0 eFG percentage /29.5 percent from 3-point range), but figures to be the team’s top returning offensive threat along with Nunn.

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2014-2015 ITH season preview: Minnesota Golden Gophers

With the start of college basketball season on the horizon, we’ll be taking a long look at the conference at large as well as Indiana’s roster over the next month. Today, we continue our look at the Big Ten with the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

Despite the fact that he won 20 games in five of his six years at the helm of the Gophers, Minnesota fired coach Tubby Smith following the 2012-2013 season. And after a lengthy coaching search saw the program get turned down by several of its leading candidates, AD Norwood Teague ultimately settled on a coach with just one year of head coaching experience in Richard Pitino.

The first year of the Pitino-era at Minnesota ended with a NIT championship and a 25-13 record, but the team scuffled down the stretch of the regular season after amassing a 15-5 record to start the year. A postseason championship of any kind is nothing to scoff at, but after only losing one starter, there are expectations for improvement in year two for Pitino.

The Gophers return one of the better backcourts in the conference with seniors Andre Hollins and DeAndre Mathieu, two players that both made our preseason list of the top 25 Big Ten players. Hollins battled an ankle sprain during the second half of the conference schedule, but still finished as the team’s leading scorer at 13.6 points per game. And Mathieu, a 5-foot-9 guard with tremendous quickness, is the top returning player in terms of assist rate at 31.1 percent.

Chipola Junior College (Fla.) guard Carlos Morris is expected to take on a major role in his first season and could slide right into the position departed by Austin Hollins.

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2014-2015 ITH season preview: Maryland Terrapins

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With the start of college basketball season on the horizon, we’ll be taking a long look at the conference at large as well as Indiana’s roster over the next month. Today, we continue our look at the Big Ten with the Maryland Terrapins.

Entering year four under Mark Turgeon, the Maryland basketball program is awaiting the breakthrough season it has been hoping for since bringing the former Texas A&M coach on board in 2011.

After an NIT-semifinal effort at the end of the 2012-13 season, Terrapins fans were hopeful of a potential NCAA tournament appearance last season in Turgeon’s third at the helm of the program. But that never happened, as an underwhelming 17-15 mark resulted in Maryland even missing out on the NIT.

And as Turegon enters year four in College Park, patience is becoming thin amongst fans who haven’t seen an NCAA tournament berth since the 2009-2010 season — when legendary coach Gary Williams was still leading the program.

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The Inside the Hall Mailbag: September 23

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The Inside the Hall Mailbag is a collection of questions tweeted to us via Twitter (@insidethehall), submitted on our premium forum and sent to us via our Facebook page. Submit your questions and we’ll answer as many as we can.

mcoghlan on the premium forum writes: What do you think the ceiling and floor is for this year’s team?

Wasting no time putting me on the spot, mcoghlan. Although I do have a bit of an advantage from seeing IU’s games in Canada, those games didn’t include Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Emmitt Holt, two players I expect to have an impact on this year’s team. I certainly believe this team has the personnel to get into the NCAA tournament, assuming the turnover problem is improved upon and IU is able to hold its own defending the paint and on the glass.

The floor would likely be a repeat performance of last season’s team in which turnovers are still a major problem and a young team struggles to finish off opponents after grabbing a lead. — Alex Bozich

kmark22 on the premium forum writes: For the 2015 or 2016 class do you see IU pursuing a point guard and if so, is it more in the mold of Robert Johnson or Yogi Ferrell?

Indiana is recruiting Shake Milton, who can play either guard spot, in the 2015 class and I think it’s a fair assumption that the Hoosier staff will be looking for point guard help in the 2016 class. With Yogi Ferrell locking down the point guard position since the day he arrived on campus, it probably hasn’t been the easiest sell to recruit a pure point guard in the last few classes.

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